EU in crisis: Purge of EU officials finds fresh target

THE EUROPEAN Commission looks set to be convulsed by a further wave of revelations on corruption and mismanagement and a ruthless purge of the top ranks of its officials.

The five person inquiry team whose damning report helped topple the commissioners on Monday night, is now preparing for the second phase of the probe. Yesterday some members of the committee accused the Commission of "hindering" its work.

The next phase will target the Commission's 24 directorates-general whose 16,000 staff carry out the day-to-day management of tasks and the execution of policies, including the awarding of financial contracts.

There were suggestions in the German press yesterday of a rearguard attempt by the Commission hierarchy to gag the inquiry by refusing to cooperate with the next round. But with heads of government like Tony Blair demanding "root and branch" reform, any refusal to hand over documents would trigger all-out war with the European Parliament .

The inquiry team is reported to have already received hundreds of boxes of additional information which will form part of the second phase.

The prospect of a purge of senior ranking permanent officials is being relished by handpicked aides and political advisers in the Commissioners' "cabinets" or private offices, who themselves were indirectly the target of much of the criticism in the first-phase report. "There is no point in clearing away the commissioners who accept political responsibility if you leave in place the faceless civil servants who were actually lining their pockets and mismanaging things," said one cabinet member yesterday.

Many middle and junior ranking civil servants are also anxious to see a clear-out. "The wise persons' report is only the tip of the iceberg" said one.

Others said they were appalled by the report and expressed solidarity with Paul Van Buitenen, the sacked Commission whistleblower.

Mr Van Buitenen was given a standing ovation when he showed up at a general assembly of EU staff unions on Wednesday.

Among the targets of the new broom would, according to some sources, be powerful behind-the-scenes figures. "Why should these top civil servants get off scot free?" said one insider.

The presidents of political groups in the European Parliament meet on Monday night in Brussels to decide the remit for the second stage of the inquiry, and parliament officials say there will be agreement that it should proceed. "There is definitely a feeling that we need to go down to the next rung of the ladder".

The inquiry team yesterday hit back at commissioners who suggested that parts of the explosive report were deliberately hyped up. Edith Cresson, the disgraced French commissioner, on Wednesday suggested that the conclusions of the report did not tally with the body of the text and had been sharpened up for political effect on Sunday night after she had seen them.

Pierre Lelong, president of the French court of auditors, and one of the inquiry team, flatly denied Ms Cresson's accusation. "The conclusions were not hardened up. The few changes we made were done with the most scrupulous attention to the truth and without pressure from anyone anywhere," he said.

Walter Van Gerven, a judge who formerly sat on the bench of the European Court of Justice, was another of the five wise persons.

He said: "The European Parliament gave us our mandate and I think they are quite happy with the work we did". He added that the most serious problem shown up by the inquiry was that the Commission had taken on too much work.

"The Commission is not made to directly manage hundreds of contracts with tourism promotion associations, for example.

"Likewise to launch a policy of aid to abandoned children in Romania and then to entrust the job to a private company and let it choose the beneficiaries of public money, that is madness."

Andre Middelhoek, a former member of the EU court of auditors, slated the culture of commissioners failing to look beyond their own noses. "Commissioners should look beyond the hedges of their garden and tear out the weeds from the gardens of their neighbours."

The inquiry team was appointed in January after the Commission agreed to co-operate with a probe in a bid to stave off a vote of censure in parliament.

Donald Macintyre, Review, page 3

Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments